State Confirms Two Panhandle MRSA Deaths in Two Weeks

The state health department now confirms there have been two MRSA deaths in the Texas panhandle in the past two weeks.

State officials say they can't reveal more details about the highly contagious disease because of HIPAA laws. NewsChannel 10 has learned confusion over legal interpretation is what's keeping a lid on infection information in our area.

"I think it's easy to hide behind HIPAA because so many people don't understand it," says Doctor Neese, who notes HIPAA is not meant to keep the public in the dark. "The concept of HIPAA was supposed to apply just for the individual patients but I think hospitals and other organizations are using it to their benefit, kind of hiding behind it in a way," she adds.

One local lawyer explains while HIPAA normally does not apply to stats on infectious diseases, there is an exception. "If the hospital or healthcare provider determines that by releasing that information, an individual could put two and two together and figure out an identity then they could in theory have to say no," says healthcare lawyer Glen Sanborn.

Dr. Neese insists the public has a right to know about  infection levels.  She says she's treated three patients with MRSA in her own office in the last month. To check the HIPAA facts yourself, and to learn more about the drug-resistant staph infection known as MRSA, click on the links below.